It’s already gross that a cat brings home dead animals. Just recently, ours has brought home mouse halves, bird wings, and huge water-moles. But things may get worse when your cat starts bringing in live or partially alive animals and then accidentally releases them behind your couch.
Why does your cat bring dead things home? Well, first, because he is a cat and that is what cats do. In this article you are going to learn why your cat brings mice home and how to make him stop doing it.
Why do cats bring mice home? Is it for fun?
Let’s start with the reasoning behind why cats bring their prey home. Overall, it’s likely for the same reason that you bring groceries home.
- To consume prey peacefully . Cats are among the best hunters in the world. There are many factors that contribute to this success, and one of them is silence. The cat hunts his prey and leaves with few noticing him. If mice could see a cat consuming their buddies next to a cave entrance, they would soon become more cautious around that entrance – or even move somewhere safer. Also, a cat’s prey is small enough to carry it home, where the environment is safe and the cat has no need to defend it from competing predators and scavengers.
- To teach kittens (or you) how to hunt. Though cats are pretty much born deadly hunters, they still need to practice. When a queen begins to teach her young, she brings home a dead mouse and consumes it in their presence, thus making the kittens familiar with the process. Later on, she might bring home an injured mouse to give the kittens practice in stalking and pouncing. Many cat behaviorists say that this instinct is present even in cats who do not have kittens; some even theorize that cats bring prey for their owners to practice, which is a highly debatable but appealing explanation, right?
- To share food with other cats or people. In large cat communities, not all individual are as good at hunting as others. Some catch more than they need and are willing to share – a behavior that is more common in female cats. If you found a dead mouse on your porch early this morning, it’s likely that your cat thought you might want to eat it. Your cat does not understand the concept of trash bin. If you scoop the dead mouse up and the cat sees that it’s gone, they will assume that someone ate it. So, why not bring more?
- To relieve stress. If your cat brings a live mouse home, he may be trying to teach you how to chase it, but he also may be using it as a stress-relief mechanism. You see, hunting is quite dangerous, even for a cat. After the concentration and tension, a little stress can be released by playing with the mouse. So, it’s brought home and a “play” session can begin. Since the mouse is in a condition that could be described as shock, it won’t easily get away. But sometimes they do.
- Because the cat is unsure what to do with the mouse. A cat’s hunger is not directly linked with it’s hunting urge. If a cat sees a running mouse or a flying bird, he sometimes cannot help but chase after it. This trait has an evolutionary advantage because literally jumping on an opportunity whenever it comes helps perfect the skill. So your overfull cat may have caught a mouse but won’t eat a bit. What to do with it? Bury it? Nah, only dogs do that. Throw it away? After all that effort? Why not leave it over there in case an idea pops up? Yes.
These theories may explain why cats bring in live and dead prey. From what we see, probably most of them are true. Now what?
How to stop your cat from bringing in mice
Now, you know that bringing home animals is a natural behavior for cats, but still, it is not a welcome treat for us. Who wants mice intestines on their porch? So, can you do something about it? Yes!
You won’t stop your cat from hunting, but you can make his hunting unsuccessful
- Do not overfeed your cat . This won’t stop your cat from hunting. In a study of cats who were allowed to hunt mice, the results showed that fullness did not stop cats from hunting. It did stop them from eating, but they still killed and brought the animals home. Feed your cat an appropriate amount of food and rely on other techniques to prevent your cat from taking dinner home.
- Get a collar with a bell for your cat. As successful hunters as cats are, they can’t get far without silence. The tinkling sound will alert their potential prey, and if your cat is unable to hunt down prey, he won’t bring it in.
- Not all cat collars are safe. Choose one that is designed to tear open if/when it gets stuck in bushes or against a tree branch to prevent strangulation. You may lose the collar, but you won’t lose your cat. You can buy safe cat collars here.
- The collar must fit perfectly. If it’s too tight, your cat will feel discomfort or even pain. If it’s too loose, the chance of it getting stuck increases dramatically. Make sure you can effortlessly fit a finger or two behind it, but not more. After you set it up, don’t forget to check occasionally that it hasn’t become too tight or too loose.
- Train your cat to accept the collar. Some cats do not mind wearing collars, but some may act aggressively towards one. If you managed to put a collar on, but your cat tries to get it off, do not leave him struggling. Actively redirect your cat’s attention towards food, toy, or petting, and do not leave the collar on for long. If you manage to remove the collar before the cat displays dislike, you can repeat this process up to several times a day, gradually making the sessions longer and eventually leaving the collar on at all times.
- Add more play to your cat’s schedule. Giving your cat the ability to hunt but never succeed is likely to significantly increase your cat’s stress levels. To counteract this, let your cat become a successful hunter, at least indoors, when playing with you. If you, for example, use a toy on a string and try to reproduce the natural movements of the mouse, let your cat stalk at it, pounce on it, and catch it. You are likely to fill your cat’s need for this type of mental stimulation. Learn more about playing with your cat here.
When everything else fails, why not consider keeping your cat indoors? There are many benefits to this and, if you are ready to try it, here are our tips to turn your former outdoor cat into an indoor one with ease and by causing little stress to both of you.